Sunday, May 25, 2008

J.P. Moreland Interview, Part 1

A few years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian thinker J.P. Moreland. Below is Part 1 on this interview.

RV. Thank you, Dr. Moreland, for granting this interview. Congratulations on winning the Gold Medallion Award for Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (hereafter referred to as Philosophical Foundations). What brought the project about and how would you and Dr. William Lane Craig like to see the book used?

JPM. Dr. Craig and I were burdened by the fact that there had been a renaissance in Christian philosophy that needed to be more accessible to the foot soldiers in the trenches. We also could not find a comprehensive, fairly sophisticated philosophical survey written from a solid Christian perspective. So we wrote the book to meet these needs and be of encouragement and aid to our brothers and sisters.

RV. In your 1997 book Love Your God With All Your Mind, you make a case for the importance of reason in the role of the Christian life. Do you believe the church has made some progress in this regard over the last seven years?

JPM. I definitely believe the church has made progress in this area, though this is no time to rest on our laurels. For example, when Christians write letters to the editor of different newspapers I have read over the years, they are becoming increasingly well-informed and penetrating. A growing number of books are being published and read by more and more Christians. Committed bands of thoughtful Christians are being raised up all across the country (and in other countries as well). One concern I have is that those of us who continue to champion the role of the mind in the Christian life do not set aside the centrality of developing a tender inner life where we become increasingly in touch with our emotions. Both the mind and affective side are crucial. We apologists dare not use our intellects to compensate for being out of touch with ourselves and others.

RV. Chapter Two of Philosophical Foundations is on "Argumentation and Logic." Why is logic important to the Christian worldview?

JPM. Logic expresses the very nature of God's being and the way His own mind works. And the laws of logic are "laws", that is, necessary principles that govern existence itself. So if we are to be and think like God and if we are to touch reality and not live in a fantasy world of our own creation, we simply must make contact with logic in our thinking and living.

RV. For Christians beginning to study philosophy, what other resources besides Philosophical Foundations would you suggest?

JPM. I suggest two sources: 1) Ed Miller's Questions That Matter (McGraw-Hill) is a basic introduction to philosophy; 2) Garry DeWeese and I have book out with InterVarsity Press titled Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult. It offers a short introduction to philosophical method, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science at a freshman or sophomore level.

RV. Could you briefly explain the mind-body problem, its relevance to philosophy and Christianity, and how you handle the matter in Philosophical Foundations?

JPM. The mind/body problem essentially focuses on what humans are made of. Physicalists say we are just matter and dualists say our bodies are physical but our consciousness and selves are immaterial. The Bible is clearly dualistic in this sense (e.g., there is a disembodied intermediate state between death and final resurrection). So the issue is of importance in defending biblical teaching. Also, if dualism is true, then naturalism in general, and naturalistic evolution in particular, cannot in principle explain the origin of living things. Why? Because you cannot start with brute, non-teleological, matter and get conscious, teleological mind from it and explain this physically. Evolution is a physical story that is (inadequately) apt for explaining how some bodies come form other bodies. It is totally inept for touching the origin of consciousness. In the beginning was either the Logos or the particles. If the latter, the history of the cosmos will be a story of the rearrangement of particles, so you will get changes is material structure, that's all. If you start with Logos (Mind) then it's not hard to see how there could be finite minds. In our book, we critique physicalism and defend dualism.

More coming soon in Part 2 of my interview with J.P. Moreland.

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